Merchandising Basics

The genesis of this post is a long-standing debate with my colleague on a topic that can be safely put as “Marketing Vs Merchandising”.  To begin with, I feel  that there cannot be a debate/discussion on Marketing “Vs” Merchandising because the latter is a very important subset of the former which also consists of several arenas including pricing, promotion and sales lead generation. If I were to present an analogy, consider marketing division as a human body and the different marketing functions as its organs that operate on their own to keep the human body up and alive! so you see now a debate on kidney Vs Human body is kinda ridiculous.

Image result for duh gif

who is the brain you ask?! well…most often it is the marketing head of the company 😀

But the best part of any discussion is the information exchange that happens (sometimes to win a pointless argument) and this time I got to learn about the merchandising basics that will help you close the gap between marketing, sales and operations that sadly work in silos in most organizations!

Merchandising is defined as the act of promoting the sale of goods, especially by their presentation in retail outlets. The keyword here is presentation. Not to sound shallow, but the presentation of products, goods, services, offers, sales reps, furniture and displays inside your store is a testimony for the standard of your store.

Related image OR  Image result for merchandising retail

So watch out for these merchandising basics to make your store look like picture 2:

#1 STORE LAYOUT 

Spending a lot of time with the store layout to figure out the most optimum store setup is highly recommended in the case of new outlets. 3D layout and dry runs should be done before you actually start setting up the store units. This step can make or break the entire shopping experience in your store for the customers. During the dry runs where you approach the store from the eyes of the customer…figure out the high visibility areas, congestion areas, navigation challenges, placement zones which would be best for the store.

store layout
example of store layout for a pharmacy

the grades A,B and C in the payout are a part of the “Visibility Grading”. A being the most visible areas followed by B and C. Again, this here is the final layout which was finalized after a lot of permutation & combination of the display unit arrangements.

#2 MERCHANDISING SEGMENTS

Merchandising segments are defined to maintain the uniformity or uniqueness of each product category and hence maintain the overall look and feel of the store. merchandising segments are also mean to make the in-store shopping experience of the customer a lot more convenient. Let’s continue with the pharmacy example…so there will be broad product categories like skin care, hair care, feminine care, eye care, OTC medicines, vitamin supplements, baby care , etc. For a merchandiser it is very important to different each of these product categories in a visible manner so that the customer knows exactly where to find what.

Also, each merchandised segment should be have a line of connectivity for the customers to move from one product category to another without even realizing it. so having wall units for skin care, hair care & feminine care in a continuous line will make more sense than skin care, baby care & vitamins.

#3 STORE DISPLAY 

It is what it means! make your store look good…for which all the efforts are being made. But here are some sub points that will simplify your understanding of the display in a store:

  • Counter display – Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) should be displayed at the counter. The area of the counter display is graded as a high end visibility area in the store and are meant for handy products that might slip out of a customer’s shopping list. e.g chewing gums, candies, hand sanitizers, wipes and so on.
  • Free Standing Display Unit (FSDU) – or a Floor Stand is an integral part of  store display.  Utilizing floor display in a correct manner not only increases the likelihood of impulse purchase but also the willingness of shoppers to switch between brands.
  • Window Display – It is important to keep window display area tidy at all times as this signifies your store reputation. Do not stock up products in front of the window display as it portrays a disorganized viewpoint of the store. But window display is crucial for promotion material to entice the customers.

#4 LEVEL PLACEMENT 

There are few important things to consider when placing products on the shelves, such as:

  • Placing your most profitable items at eye level
  • Placing products for children and pregnant women at eye level
  • Placing your popular or targeted products in between eye and knee level of visibility

#5 PLANOGRAMS 

Once you have decided which products are to be placed on which shelves basis the best visibility plan, it is important to consider how the products have to be arranged on the shelves too. A planogram is a visual diagram, or drawing, that provides details on the placement of every product in a retail store. These schematics not only present a flow chart for the particular merchandise departments within a store layout but also show which aisle and on what shelf an item is located.

while I have tried to superficially touch upon the basic merchandising practices, there is a lot more that goes into making a store look flawless and customer friendly. But these pointers will definitely lay a strong foundation in your learning about merchandising and will surely make your views count in “merchandising Vs. marketing” discussion 😛

 

 

 

 

 

How to write a ‘Company Overview’

As a part of one of my on going projects with a leading construction company in Qatar, we are giving this 70+ year old brand a face lift. While this entire exercise will make a brilliant re-branding  case study some day, today I want to concentrate on one very crucial part of content marketing that I believe is more important that we think it is. I have to admit that it was that one intriguing question by the client that got me thinking…for good!

Image result for thinking gif

Now, What is a ‘Company Overview’?

I am no batman so I googled this very question (we need a superhero with google-like powers). Surprisingly there was nothing much that would explain to me what a company overview is like I was a 5 year old (hellya! Denzel Washington). So I went for split and search and it kinda worked. So, an overview of a situation is a general understanding or description of the situation as a WHOLE.  Obviously the situation here is a company and the task is to write a page that would describe the company as a WHOLE. Again in caps because that is the keyword!

You wondering why?! remember the intriguing question that my client asked…it was, “should we call the prepared content Company Overview, Company Introduction or Company Brief?” 

The keyword helped me answer the question. A company overview is far more than an introduction or a brief. when you introduce yourself to someone it mostly is your name, where you come from, what company you work with and maybe a couple of more points if the other guy is really listening to you. There is much more information about you in store than what you give away in an introduction. I have had interviews where I was asked to “briefly” introduce myself! So a brief is strictly no dilly dally, cut to chase, say it in one breath scenario. I understand that my examples are conversation based and the case in point is about written content, but my objective is to differentiate between an overview, introduction and brief before we know to how to write one.

While writing a ‘Company Overview’…

  • List out the keywords that describe your business and its core values

Company overview is no longer confined to the pages of a business plan or a tedious report. It is one of the first things we read about when we enter a company website. With the growing acceptance and demand for SEO responsive websites, the content has to reflect the meticulous usage of keywords that will contribute in increasing the quality of your website. This is called “On-Page” SEO, a topic for my upcoming post.

Finding the right set of keywords for your business is a very crucial step and i encourage it to be a time taking one. The process includes interviewing the founders, present top management and conducting a competitor analysis and secondary research. Tools like Google Adwords Keywords Planner should be used to filter out the most relevant keywords.

Once you have listed out 10-15 keywords for your business, try and incorporate all or most of them in the company overview while maintaining the flow of information.

  • Figure out the key components that must be included 

Think of it as a 2 minute business presentation to a set of people who have never heard about your company till that very moment. What are the most important aspects of your company that they should know about?, Where can they locate you?, When did you start this company? and how are you the best in what you do? Writing a company overview is simply answering these questions in the most accurate way possible. In short, it should contain the What, Where, When and How of your company

  • Follow this basic structure

Company History  – provide the back story, including date of founding and who were the founders

Management Team – details about the top management and their key roles

Legal Structure and Ownership – how you’ve decided to structure your company

Locations and Facilities – Details on your work spaces and diversity

Mission Statement – A concise statement on the guiding principles of your company

So, get started on writing a company overview that will get you noticed.

Image result for observe gif

 

 

Difference between Goal, Objective, Strategy & Tactic

The purpose of my blogs is to take inspiration from my everyday chores, events, scenarios and try to relate it to those marketing lessons which were once crucial to clear college tests with flying colors. That was back in the post-grad days when tests were taken (simple) and now I am put to test everyday in real business situations (not that simple). Marketing jargon, fancy presentations topped with promising case studies can be an impressive start for your marketing career but you have got to produce results. That is usually the unwanted question or exclamation mark while evaluating your marketing campaign.

Image result for Marketing COST

One of my favorite dialogues from House of Cards puts it just right…”One has to be smart to know what they don’t know.” So when going gets tough ask yourself what you have been pretending to know all this while because now is the time to actually know it!

This post is about the four pillars of every marketing campaign that are often misused, overused, underused or used fr no reason at all. It’s the GOST…Goal, Objective, Strategy, Tactic.

  1. GOAL

Image result for goal

Or more precisely business goal. This is a very long term of view of what the business should become or should accomplish. Goals are meant to be ambitious and to some extent far fetched that can keep the work force motivated forever. for example, the goal of a cooking oil company would be to become the number 1 cooking oil of the world. Even if the brand ends up being the least used cooking oil in its geographical region, the goal will always be same.

2. OBJECTIVE

Related image

When your boss asks the objective behind your strategy…make sure you have a number in mind. That’s right, objective is where you define the way to achieving the business goal using concrete and justified numbers. Taking the above example, when the cooking oil company comes to me with the goal…it expects me (the marketer) to figure out HOW?

So one of the objectives would be to double the sales in one year. If we are presently we are selling 100 bottles we have to increase the sales to 200 bottles. There can be multiple objectives in a campaign. Like in this case, the new cooking oil company might want to achieve considerable brand awareness as a part of this campaign.

3. STRATEGY

Related image

This according to me is the most misused word of all! so now you know that growing your business is not a strategy and so is increasing product sales. Strategy is a critical bridge that connects you to the objectives and subsequently the goal. when i say bridge…picture one of those hanging bridge connecting two mountain cliffs and not the concrete modern day bridge just to maintain the thrill of this crucial step 😀

It is true that strategy can make or break your campaign that’s because it answers the very important WHY? Strategy should answer why you are doing what you are doing and if the answer is not aligned with your objective and goal…you know what’s wrong. For example, sampling would be a good marketing strategy for increasing the sales of cooking oil. And so would be reviews by influential cooks and food connoisseurs. Strategy constitutes multiple steps that individually and all together contribute to coming close to the goals.

4. TACTICS

Image result for goal

Tactics will take you to the white board and multicolored excel sheets. That’s because when you are working on your tactics you need every little detail to action the campaign. If the cooking oil company plans to use sampling as a strategy to let people try out their product for free, the tactics would include the plan of action to make this happen. For example, where to give free samples – malls, hypermarkets, mini marts ,etc. key locations to target, number of stalls and other minute details.

Hope you have got the GOST figured out now and with the basics in place the result will be… YOU ON TOP!!

Image result for goal

 

Power to customer

Image

A market place is a fine example of potential transactions but with asymmetric information. It simply means that the information available to buyers is different or mostly insufficient than the information available to the sellers. The general perception about this gap would be that it’ll insinuate purchase reluctance in buyers if the sellers don’t bridge this information gap. But for this to happen, the customer needs to be aware of the information deficiency which more than often never happens! However, it is interesting to see how this “unexploited value” gives buyers and sellers an incentive to capture that value. And this my friends is the genesis of Marketing Signaling and Screening…a power foreplay of buyers and sellers that had influenced product sales ones but now has changed gears.

Sellers with high quality products need ways to signal the quality of their products so that buyers can distinguish between high-quality and low-quality products. Before we consider this ideal situation, it’s important to realize that there are no fair rules in marketing. A seller would very much want to signal the high product/service qualities but what if it has none? well…the seller can still promise all the big stuff quality and features which for the time being only he knows isn’t true. Buyers must find ways to screen out erroneous information but allow in truthful information. This may not seem very relevant for products which can be easily evaluated or are low involvement like vegetables, soaps but think about the time when you bought a new refrigerator or an air conditioner.

Traditional form of marketing is highly Signaling driven. Remember the print Ads and television commercials which bragged about their product features and how they are the best in the market. They had everything in it for you to believe them and we did!

                              

It was partly because the product value proposition mirrored consumer needs but for most of the time it was because just a one way communication. There was no way the company would answer an individual’s concern before buying that product and so we felt…may be they are right. The scope of screening was very less unless the company salesmen were at your door step to demonstrate or give eye popping warranty for it.

In today’s marketing scenario, with the advent of social media marketing the play field has been leveled for both the players. Social media marketing has helped in completing the communication cycle by including the buyers in every step of the transaction (information and goods). Today the companies on social media platforms cannot just get away with false claims and product featuring. In no time the customer can track them down and inquire about what ever is in their mind out in the open. The ball now is in the seller’s court and they are bound to respond to the query or comment. If they don’t…customer has successfully screened them out and if they can survive the screening the customer gets the best bet. All in all customer has emerged as the powerful end of this marketing evolution and it is expected out of the customer to make the most out of it.

What is Influencer Marketing

Wooing your target customer has become more and more challenging in the cluttered market but there are also new ways to reach out to them.  Brands have moved on from selling products to providing solutions to their consumers, and in this ‘solve my problem’ game trust is the cornerstone. So who would you trust to fix your precious car, or reduce the peeking fine lines on your beautiful face??

Enter INFLUENCER

Image result for influencer

Who are they? Anyone, I repeat, anyone who holds a strong opinion (positive or negative or neutral) about anything (that could be sold) and is capable of influencing your opinion about that thing!

I know it sounds complicated but trust me its not. trust me.

Let’s start with very simple examples to under the influencer concept. I was a very inquisitive child and would ask endless questions to my mom about everything possible. I had no idea then that the answers will continue to teach me things even today. Well I once asked her…why did you choose this school for me?! and she said that NEIGHBORS say it one of the best in the town. I hated drinking a glass full of milk and would ask her everyday…Why do i need to drink it? and she replied DOCTORS say it is good for your bones.

Image result for influencer marketing

You guessed it…our neighbors, doctors, family, friends and even a storekeeper influence our decisions (very important decisions) everyday. So for people who think influencer marketing is the “in-thing” na-ah…

But yes, influencer marketing has become rather important and relevant in this digital age. That’s a given because today everyone is all eyes and ears 24*7 on n number of platforms just to know your opinion! so why not make them share an opinion about your product/service.

sharing this good read that has all the basics covered :

http://www.gshiftlabs.com/influencer-marketing/28-frequently-asked-questions-influencer-marketing/

 

 

 

 

 

Marketing Speaks

Marketing speaks aka marketing jargon is usually perceived as tricks up a marketers sleeve. Having worked in a corporate and now with a marketing agency, life has kind of been a full circle in a short span of time. And throwing jargon in meetings has changed its hidden motive from “testing ones skills” to “proving ones”.

But given the peace loving person that i am, there can be a truce offering. What if everyone just knew what these tense but often self explanatory words/phrases meant. So here are some marketing magic words that you might use (*with caution) while discussing the life changing marketing strategies with your team, marketing experts, third party or your pet dog!

1. Advertising Clutter

Hey remember that beauty soap ad?! which has like milk, shea butter and aloe vera in it?…the one which has a beautiful model in a bathtub with foam all over her??…ohh come on, how about the jingle that’s always at back of your head!

Image result for soap ad

I bet we all are thinking about different soaps that match the description above. And that my friend is an example of advertising clutter or Marketing clutter. While this phenomenon is inclined towards being a negative marketing effect but that’s not entirely true. Creative content, targeted messaging and multi-channel communication is key to creating some space for your brand in the clutter.

2.  Double-Loop Marketing

Marketing for a product or service starts with a strategic approach towards achieving the goals you set out for your business. Here the term approach is important because it is a step wise planner that aligns various components of the campaign to measurable KPI. Double-Loop marketing is an effective approach wherein the marketing efforts are two fold: Market Share & Wallet Share

Image result for market share wallet share

In the first loop companies try and provide as much information and advise to the potential customers about their solution/innovation. You do not want to just talk about your product but present a bigger picture of how your product/ service will make their life perfect. This loop is vital in creating a recall for your brand thereby creating a mind share in consumers cluttered mind. In line with the example of soaps, we have to give it to Dove for their consistent messaging of “moisturizing soap” and that’s what lingers in or mind when we think of this soap. The second loop is where you say show me the money! because businesses run on money you have to successfully sell you brand and grab a wallet share of your consumers.

There you go…I hope you’ve added these marketing lingo to your pocket book and ready to bedazzle the next marketing presentation. Come back because there’s going to be more of marketing speak in the coming days.

I am no marketing guru, I learn and spread the word. So please leave your comments in the form of suggestions, feedback, explanations and make this a marketing classroom.

zzzz